Question Mark On A Pregnancy Test: What It Means

Are you staring at a first response digital pregnancy test with a question mark symbol, feeling uncertain and anxious? Don’t worry. That mark you see there can leave anyone bewildered.

But this article is going to uncover everything you need to know about why and how you got that sign and help you understand what it really means.

What causes a question mark on first response pregnancy test?

You made the test and unfortunately the strip didn’t show any of the regular signs you anxiously expected.

It rather showed a question mark and that has kept you wondering. Let’s explore the possible reasons.

1. An error in the strip or usage

8 out of 10 times, this sign means there’s an error with the strip.

Consequently, when you fail to follow  the instructions and guidelines correctly, or sometimes when you use insufficient amount of urine, or even too much, it can lead to your FR test showing a question mark.

2. Faulty test strip

You may have gotten a faulty strip from the pharmacy or the supermarket. You didn’t cause this.

Test strips are likely to malfunction and in some cases show this symbol, which is certainly an error in the manufacturing process. 

3. Wrong manufacturing date

Of course, you may be unlucky to get a strip which may have a wrong manufacturing date that will cause it to pop up with “?”.

4. Expired or improperly stored test strips

An expired or improperly stored test strip can also cause unreliable test results which includes a question mark showing up.

What do I do after I see question mark appear on first response pregnancy test?

It is important to note that a question mark on FR digital strip does not necessarily indicate pregnancy.

If you encounter this sign repeating over and over, or have any doubts about the accuracy of your test, including invalid results, then this is what you should do.

  1. Read the instructions:  Be sure to carefully read over the instructions that came with the test. Ensure that you followed all the steps correctly, including the timing, urine collection and the result interpretation.
  2. Retake the test: If a question mark appears on the first test, it is recommended to retake the test with a new one. You should use a fresh strip in order to rule out any issues with the faulty or expired test.
  3. Follow the wait time: Some pregnancy tests require a specific wait time for accurate results. If this sign popped before the indicated time, then wait a bit longer to see if the result will change.
  4. Get a different brand or type of test: If you’re repeatedly getting this symbol on a particular first response digital strip brand, then consider testing with a different brand or another type of pregnancy test from a reliable manufacturer.
  5. Go ahead and talk to your doctor: If this problem still persists even after trying different brands, then you need to talk to a healthcare professional about it. Doctors can help with further evaluation, guidance and may suggest a blood test to determine the results.

How does a pregnancy test work?

A pregnancy test works by detecting pregnancy hormones in your blood and it does that from the urine.

This hormone, also known as the hCG, can only be detected in the first few weeks of pregnancy when its levels is substantially high.

By then, chances of an embryo implanting in your uterus is high, increasing likelihood of your test determining their presence.

If hCG Is detected above a certain threshold, then the test will show a positive result. Conversely, If it does not detect any, your result will show negative.

It is important to note that they can sometimes give false negatives, especially if you take the test shortly after noticing a missed period.

In such cases, it means your hCG levels were not high enough for the strip to determine, which may result in negative result, though you could be pregnant.

In the other way round with some cases, the test strip could indicate a positive result while you may actually not be pregnant.

This is normally caused by a rare medical condition which causes the production of hCG without pregnancy.

What are the steps for taking a pregnancy test

  1. When you need to take a pregnancy test, get a sample of your urine in a small cup. It is always advisable to use early morning urines as that is the time of the day where your hCG hormones are actively high.
  2. Use a dropper to place small amount of urine on the test strip, where it requires you to dip it. The strip’s antibodies would react to hCG hormones in the urine which will result in a color change, usually within some few minutes.

What are the symbols on a pregnancy test?

If you’re new to pregnancy tests, it is very important to know the symbols on them and what they mean.

However, the symbols on a pregnancy test can vary depending on the brand or the type of test you use. Common symbols found on a typical test strip are:

  1. Plus sign ( + ): The plus sign indicates a POSITIVE result. This means the test has determined the pregnancy hormones in your blood. As such, you are pregnant.
  2. Minus sign ( – ) : A minus symbol indicates a negative result, also meaning the test did not detect pregnancy hormones in your blood. This suggests that you’re NOT pregnant.
  3. Lines: Sometimes, pregnancy tests can also show line results.  For instance, a single vertical line (|) next to a second horizontal line (-) usually signifies a negative result, also suggesting that you aren’t pregnant.


How do you confirm a pregnancy line?

If you’re looking to confirm a pregnancy line, then this is what you should note; One colored line on the strip indicates negative, meaning you are not pregnant. Two lines mean, you are positive, that is, you are pregnant.

How do I know if my faint line is positive?

A faint line that couples an additional line on a pregnancy test means positive, that is, you are pregnant but you’re in your very early stages.

What does an Invalid pregnancy result mean?

Invalid results on your pregnancy test simply means the test couldn’t determine whether you’re pregnant or not.


In conclusion, if your pregnancy test result pops up with a question mark symbol, do not be confused.

Like we know now, such result can be caused by a faulty test, which may include issues with the result window and sometimes error from the manufacturer’s point.

It can also arise from expired or improperly stored strips, or user error in conducting the test.

It is essential to carefully follow the instructions provided with the test and ensure that you follow the proper timing, urine collection, and result interpretation methods.

To address this situation, it is recommended to retake the test with a new one, following the instructions accurately and allowing the appropriate wait time as recommended.

Remember, a question mark on a first response pregnancy test does not necessarily indicate pregnancy. If it persists, or if there are doubts about the test’s accuracy, talk to your doctor. He or she can further assist and guide you.

References: National Institutes Of Health (Pregnancy tests: a review)


Georgina Austin

Georgina Austin

Georgina is a certified midwife, a seasoned writer and a mother of twins - Noel and Noelle. She brings to this blog eleven years of experience in maternity support, coupled with her personal motherhood adventures to give you factual information on women's health.

Aside writing on pregnancy and breastfeeding, she writes on sexual health concerns, birth control guides, egg donation, sibling dynamics, and balancing the demands of multiple children.